#BlogTour Are You The F**king Doctor by Liam Farrell

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Are You the F**cking Doctor by Liam Farrell. It’s quite hard to fit this into any genre at all. It is part biographical and it is also full of anecdotes and witty reflections.

About the Author

Dr Liam Farrell is from Rostrevor, Co Down, Ireland. He was a family doctor in Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, for 20 years, and is an award-winning writer and a seasoned broadcaster. He is married to Brid, and has three children Jack, Katie, and Grace. 

He was a columnist for the British Medical Journal for 20 years and currently writes for GP, the leading newspaper for general practitioners in the UK. He has also been a columnist for the Lancet, the Journal of General Practice, the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish News. He wrote the entry on ‘Sex’ for The Oxford Companion to the Body.  

On Twitter he curates #Irishmed, a weekly tweetchat on all things medical, which has a global following. He also co-curates #WritersWise, a regular tweetchat for writers, with novelist Sharon Thompson. 

He was the medical columnist for the BBC Radio Ulster Evening Extra 1996-98; presented the series Health-Check for Ulster TV in 2002, and was medical consultant for both series of Country Practice in 2000 and 2002 for BBC Northern Ireland. 

His awards include Columnist of the Year at Irish Medical Media Awards 2003, Periodical Publishers Association of Great Britain 2006 and Medical Journalist’s Society, London 2011, and Advancing Health through Media at the Zenith Global Healthcare Awards 2018.He was shortlisted for the Michael McLaverty Short Story Competition in 2008. 

Follow @drlfarrell on Twitter, Visit drliamfarrell.wordpress.com

Buy Are You The F**king Doctor 

About the book

‘General practice is the great unknown. We stand on the cusp of the beyond. Science takes us only so far, then the maps stop in the grey areas of intuition, imagination and feelings: here be dragons. Lurching from heart-breaking tragedy to high farce, we are the Renaissance men and women of medicine; our art is intangible. Anything can walk through our door…’

Family doctor, Irishman, musician, award-winning author, anarchist and recovering morphine addict, Liam became a columnist for the BMJ in 1994. He went on to write for many major publications, winning a series of prestigious awards; in 2005, he was the first doctor to win Columnist of the Year in the Periodical Publishers Association awards.

The book contains a selection of Liam’s best work, from his columns, blogs and short stories.Brilliantly funny, glittering with literary allusion and darkly wicked humour, this book is much more than a collection of stand-alone anecdotes and whimsical reflections, rather a compelling chronicle of the daily struggles – and personal costs – of a doctor at the coalface.

Review 

It’s quite hard to fit this into any genre at all. It is part biographical and it is also full of anecdotes and witty reflections. It’s often brutally honest and reflective in a way only a person who has truly faced their demons can be.

This becomes clear in the first chapter when the author describes his own struggle with addiction. In fact the descriptions are very visceral. Shocking at first when you remember that we aren’t talking about someone sat in a crack den shooting up a potent drug. This is a medical professional giving himself a hit of morphine. It’s a dark and sincere part of the book.

I have to say I walked away from this read wondering what the heck any doctor I have ever had, especially the long-term ones, has ever written in my medical notes. ‘Cheryl saves up her ailments for one ten minute GP appointment’ (absolutely true – sorry) ‘Cheryl thinks she’s a doctor and tells me what the diagnosis is and what meds I should prescribe’ (also very guilty of doing this) ‘Oh no it’s her again’ – I think I need to ask for my medical notes.

I think it’s easy to forget that there is a human being behind the profession. A person with their own set of personal and medical issues. Yes, they are being paid and it is their profession, but that doesn’t mean we should completely blank out the fact there is a person behind the stethoscope.

Imagine having to deal with death on a regular basis, giving people devastating news and having to follow their paths of pain. All of those emotions have to go somewhere, especially if the doctor has to maintain an objective stance and yet still show empathy at the same time.

Farrell writes with a quick tongue, a sharp set of teeth and intelligence. What may be drowned out in the noise of the witty repertoire is the years of care and dedication he has clearly given to others. It’s certainly an interesting piece of work.

Buy Are You The F**king Doctor at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads or any other retailer. Publisher: Dalzell Press; pub date 8 Nov. 2018

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins-Reid

Let me tell you what the real brilliance of this book is – the authenticity of it all. After a few pages I found myself questioning whether it was fictional. Halfway through the story I was avidly googling The Six, Daisy Jones and both of the Dunne brothers. No result. Double-check. Nope, definitely says it is a fictional story. Kudos to the author for creating not only an authentic story, but also such convincing dialogue and characters.

The reader can feel the passion, the self-destruction and flighty confusion of the era, which in turn is reflected in the characters. The era of free love, lots of drugs and plenty of rock n’ roll. Nobody embodies the life quite like the lead singer of The Six, Billy Dunne.

When he reaches breaking point the relationship between Billy and his future wife Camila is what keeps him from running straight off a cliff. He gets his act together and then Daisy Jones steps into his life.

Daisy is a free spirit who wants to make her mark in the world of music, but on her terms and not on those of some man in charge of her. She is very much the feminine version of Billy. They have the same need to control their environment, to create their own music and to be adored by an army of fans.

This is the story of how Daisy Jones and The Six came to be and at the same time how it all ended abruptly in the midst of a successful tour. The story is told via a series of interviews with the responses to each event or question answered in mixed sequence by the band members, Daisy, family and managers.

It’s as if the reader is thrust into rooms where the entire cast of characters participate in front of each other, but are often simultaneously unaware of what the other is saying. Which means you get different accounts of the same situation as each individual remembers it. In essence it’s a kind of 4D holographic literary experience – of memories, opinions and emotional responses. It is absolutely fascinating.

Buy Daisy Jones and The Six at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Random House Uk, Cornerstone Digital (ecopy), Hutchinson (Hardcover) pub date 7 March 2019

Follow @tjenkinsreid @HutchinsonBooks on Twitter

Visit taylorjenkinsreid.com

When All is Said by Anne Griffin

In its own solitary way this book is a thing of beauty and I hope it gets a nod next year when it’s time for handing out awards and being listed on distinguished and best books lists. It’s a story of sorrow, vengeance, loneliness, abuse and loss.

The story is narrated by the main character, Maurice Hannigan, as he tells the tale of his life and how he became the man he is and the people who helped him become that man. Now as an old man he looks back upon mistakes, the events that formed his character and some of his regrets. Five people, five toasts and his entire life in one evening.

The natural inclination of man or woman is to look back upon their lives as they grow older, especially if they are nearing the end of their time. The author really captures this nostalgic mood and how conflicted Hannigan feels about certain situations and people in his life.

One of the more poignant moments is when Hannigan has no choice but to put himself in the shoes of the man he has hated his whole life. Not that it makes that man less of a muppet, but it does give Hannigan a different perspective on certain behaviour and events he had to endure. Sometimes we only see one side of the story, which is often coloured by our own frame of reference and emotional involvement.

Griffin has a natural flair for writing and telling a story. With the most basic of recipes, one man and his drink of choice, just his voice and his memories – the author gives us a deep well of emotions, caustic commentary and breathtaking honesty. The reader lifts their drink and toasts alongside Hannigan, as he contemplates and reminisces the many decades of calculated moves. It’s a subtle and spectacular read.

Buy When All is Said at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Sceptre (pub. date 24 Jan. 2019), imprint of Hodder & Stoughton.

Follow @AnneGriffin_  @SceptreBooks Visit annegriffinwriter.com

#BlogTour Mavis and Dot by Angela Petch

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour for Mavis and Dot by Angela Petch. Petch shows the reader what true companionship, friendship and support is.

About the Author

A prize-winning author, Angela Petch lives half the year in West Sussex and the summer months in a remote valley in the Tuscan Apennines. She recently signed a two-book deal with Bookouture for her Tuscan novels and “Mavis and Dot” is a temporary departure from her usual genre. She has travelled all her life: born in Germany, she spent six years as a child living in Rome, worked in Amsterdam after finishing her degree in Italian, moved to Italy for her job, then to Tanzania for three years. Her head is full of stories and she always carries a pen and note-book to capture more ideas.

In May 2017, Angela Petch won PRIMA’S monthly short story competition and recently had a dozen stories published by The People’s Friend magazine.

“Mavis and Dot” was written in memory of a dear friend who lost her battle with ovarian cancer. All profits from sales of the book will go towards research into a cure for cancer.

About the book

A warm slice of life, funny, feel-good, yet poignant. Introducing two eccentric ladies who form an unlikely friendship.Meet Mavis and Dot – two colourful, retired ladies who live in Worthington-on-Sea, where there are charity shops galore. Apart from bargain hunting, they manage to tangle themselves in escapades involving illegal immigrants, night clubs, nude modelling, errant toupees and more. And then there’s Mal, the lovable dog who nobody else wants. A gently humorous, often side-splitting, heart-warming snapshot of two memorable characters with past secrets and passions.

Escape for a couple of hours into this snapshot of a faded, British seaside town. You’ll laugh and cry but probably laugh more.”This book is quirky and individual, and has great pathos…[it] will resonate with a lot of readers.” Gill Kaye – Editor of Ingenu(e). Written with a light touch in memory of a dear friend who passed away from ovarian cancer, Angela Petch’s seaside tale is a departure from her successful Tuscan novels.

Review

The friendship and relationship between Mavis and Dot reminds me of the friendship my mother has with a woman she met when she moved to a small seaside town. The two of them spend nearly their entire time together sniping and complaining about each other, all whilst going on regular shopping trips and excursions. When apart they complain to others about the annoying habits each of them has, and that is more or less what Mavis and Dot are like.

The differences between them seem insurmountable and yet the way each of them resigns themselves to those idiosyncrasies is what stands out in this story.

For me the core of this story is the odd couple relationship and the friendship they both grow into over time. The story pivots and shoots into a lot of different directions, which I felt was detrimental to the main plot at times, however saying that the eccentricity and the erratic nature of the storyline is also what makes this story.

Friendship happens between the strangest of couples and groups, and between the most unlikely of persons. The question is whether we are still able to do so in times when our society has become so standoffish, inhumane and uncaring towards the plight and pain of our fellow human beings. We have to accept that we are the same beneath our external differences or internal beliefs.

Petch shows the reader what true companionship, friendship and support is, and it has no problem ignoring smelly coats and a bad dress sense. It can be filled with disagreements and still be a strong supportive bond worth nurturing. At the same time, looking beyond the sad aspect of loneliness, the isolation of the elderly and the way we deal with immigrants, there is also a thread of humour throughout the story. It keeps Mavis and Dot light and entertaining.

Buy Mavis and Dot at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Buy Mavis and Dot at Amazon com

Tuscan Novels

Tuscan Roots: A tangle of love and war in the Italian Apennines (Tuscan Roots – to be reissued by Bookouture in 2019)

Now and Then in Tuscany:Italian Journeys

#BlogTour Fishing for Maui by Isa Pearl Ritchie

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Fishing in Maui by Isa Pearl Ritchie. It’s a story about family and the way we can be sat next to each other, and yet a thousand miles away from each other at the same time.

About the Author

Isa Ritchie is a Wellington-based writer. She grew up as a Pākehā child in a bicultural family and Māori was her first written language. She has completed a PhD on food sovereignty in Aotearoa. She is passionate about food, wellbeing and social justice.

Follow @IsaPearlRitchie on Twitter, on Facebook on Instagram, Visit isaritchie.com

Buy Fishing for Maui

About the book

A novel about food, whānau, and mental illness.

Valerie reads George Eliot to get to sleep – just to take her mind off worries over her patients, her children, their father and the next family dinner. Elena is so obsessed with health, traditional food, her pregnancy and her blog she doesn’t notice that her partner, Malcolm the ethicist, is getting himself into a moral dilemma of his own making. Evie wants to save the world one chicken at a time. Meanwhile her boyfriend, Michael is on a quest to reconnect with his Māori heritage and discover his own identity. Rosa is eight years old and lost in her own fantasy world, but she’s the only one who can tell something’s not right. Crisis has the power to bring this family together, but will it be too late?Review

I’m not sure whether the point of this story was to present each character, to give them a voice and opinion on a multitude of topics, in an attempt to show the reader how different we can be, even in the confines of our own family structure or just to have the opportunity to voice an opinion.

An opinion on everything you can think of, from religion, faith, abortion, abnormal cervical cell treatment, health systems in foreign countries, culture, myths, identity, mental health, veganism, mass animal farming, bullying, morality, sexuality, racism, colorism or shadeism, vegetarianism and many more. It’s a lot, it eclipses any intention of a story, especially about Michael and his mental health issues.

I would like to have seen more depth when it came to Michael, the why, the tailspin and the recovery. There are primary causes of psychotic symptoms, but psychosis can also be secondary to other disorders and diseases (Psychiatric disorders, neurological illnesses and mental health disorders), including B12 deficiency. Everyone is still circling their own orbit, which is indicative of how the family members deal with each other, and the reason they miss it when other family members need support.

Elena’s blog plays a huge role in her life and the story. It is her way of having a voice in the world and maintaining independence, whereas her husband believes it is the way the little wife escapes the real world. Among her blog-posts and reader commentary are topics such as prenatal healthcare and testing which are deemed ‘invasive testing on the off-chance I’d abort an ‘imperfect’ child’ and is part of the anti-abortion thought process of one character for instance. The same one who sees anti-stretch mark oils (petrochemicals) as bad news, so it’s advantageous that the character has included a recipe and instructions on how to make homemade lavender skin balm.

Is it a story or is it a way to tell readers your opinion in an attempt to engage in a narrative or change they way the perceive certain situations? If it’s the latter then there is no need for a fictional family.

Evie’s story is about having to deal with the diagnosis of abnormal cervical cells (CIN3) and natural regression after lifestyle changes, such as diet and eliminating smoking. I think it is fair to say that adapting a healthier lifestyle will be beneficial to anyone who chooses to do so, and in doing so a person can strengthen their immune system and reduce the risk of many diseases. There is a growing voice for the more holistic approach in this area, but here is the thing, regardless of a wake-up call and lifestyle changes not all CIN2 or CIN3 lesions will progress to cervical cancer, which means there may be some misconception about what causes the regression or if the results remain the same after a period of waiting.

I would bear that in mind before recommending that women of all ages think about waiting for treatment, refusing standard health practices, because one of them might just be one of the percentage that falls into ‘the evolves into cancer cell’ categories. Do your own research, get advice from an medical expert and get a second, third or fourth opinion before making a decision based alternative methods. Saying that, living a more healthy and yet balanced lifestyle is never a bad choice for your body in the long run.

Lastly there is the home-birthing and Elena, the cuckolded wife and avid blogger. Let me just say that I think every woman should give birth in the way that makes them feel most comfortable and is safe for both baby and mother. In the book the opinion gives off an air of borderline birth-shaming, which is probably due to personal experiences and own frame of reference. Not every woman can deal with birth with just a hot wet towel on their back. Some women experience little or no pain, others experience unimaginable pain. Each woman has a different pain threshold and has a different body with individual health issues. Also, while there might be a correlation between mode of delivery and subsequent post-partum depression there are also things like the mother’s age, number of delivery, acceptance, sex, education, maternal depression and previous medical history of depression which have to be taken into consideration.

Every day, approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth – 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries. (WHO) Across the U.S., infant mortality rates for full-term babies were 50 percent to 200 percent higher than in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, the study found. Birth defects, or congenital malformations, accounted for 31 percent of U.S. infant deaths during the study. So-called perinatal complications, or medical problems babies developed shortly before or after birth, accounted for another 13 percent of fatalities. (Reuters)

Those are just a few statistics I would offer up as a reason to take all options into consideration, even giving birth at home if mother and baby are healthy. There are plenty of birthing houses that sway away from the sterile medical birth, and the majority of hospitals have birthing pools and special birthing rooms that try look and feel like a home environment.

I think Ritchie has a lot to say and so do her characters, in this case it’s to the detriment of a storyline that never quite gets to unfold, because everyone is trying to tell the reader something. If you took all the characters out of Fishing for Maui and just let the person who wants to engage with the world have a dialogue with the reader throughout the book – you would have a completely different read. A non-fictional one, but a book readers would still want to engage with, regardless of whether it is to agree or disagree with the opinions and information Ritchie brings to the table.

If a book creates a reaction in a reader then the author has done their job. Mine may be different to others, but it is a reaction nonetheless. It’s a story about family and the way we can be sat next to each other, and yet a thousand miles away from each other at the same time.

Buy Fishing for Maui at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Publisher: Te Rā Aroha Press (4 July 2018)

Buy Fishing for Maui at Amazon com

Buy at Smashwords

Bitter by Francesca Jakobi

I think many readers may dislike Gilda and be extremely concerned about her behaviour. Her stalking, the drinking, the impulsive choices, the way she neglects her son and her obsessive need to control her son’s life.

I felt sorry for her, regardless of all the crazy and the selfish actions. I even shed a tear or two for her towards the end. In a way Bitter is everything but, it just depends on your perspective on the situation.

This is life with all its ups and downs, disappointment and joy, betrayal and love. Gilda could be any one of us in any era. Living with the guilt of separation and divorce. Trying to function within the confines of a patchwork family. Sitting on secrets to ensure the truth doesn’t destroy the fragile relationships between child and parent.

It’s interesting and also tragic to note that not one person asks Gilda how she is feeling. How she felt being targeted as a Jew in Germany, about the guilt she carries because she got out and others couldn’t. The fact she is treated as if she doesn’t love her son, when in reality she just finds it difficult to show her real emotions, is a tragedy.

I loved this little gem of a book. It just really spoke to me, perhaps because it portrays so perfectly what it is like to be misconceived and eternally being on the short end of the stick. History is written by the victors or the ones in positions of power, which includes divorced couples who share children. Parental alienation and blaming one parent, as opposed to getting on for the good of the child or children.

It’s a really intriguing read and not what I was expecting. In fact I was surprised at how much I was drawn to and felt sympathy for Gilda. I highly recommend it.

Buy Bitter at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Pub.date 4 Oct. 2018

Follow @fjajakobi  @wnbooks on Twitter

Visit francescajakobi.co.uk